Evil in the Shadows



You will have to forgive me for going on and on about the white supremacist terror threat. I suppose it’s not as appealing a topic as – say – female beauty. When I write about Serena Williams’ physical appearance, I get a flurry of comments; when I write about racism, I only hear from one or two readers.

But I have to keep sounding the alarm.

This is a serious matter. It’s not about a few crazies in white robes burning crosses or the display of a revolting flag. It’s about life and death.

America needs to wake up to the fact that evil forces are at work, stirring up hatred, fueling rage, spreading toxic ideas.

I read in the Daily Kos today about a man named Earl Holt III (photo above), for example, “a Texan who regularly describes himself as a ‘slumlord’ when he donates to political candidates.”

According to the story I read, this evil creature is the leader of a group that goes by the innocuous name of “the Council of Conservative Citizens.” 

This group played a critical part in triggering Dylann Roof’s racist rage. The Daily Kos article, by writer and lawyer David Nir,  quotes Roof’s manifesto as saying he visited the group’s web site after Trayvon Martin’s shooting and:

There were pages upon pages of … brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

Tracing the origin of the “council,” Nir calls it “the direct offspring of the notoriously segregationist White Citizens Council that sprung up in response to the Supreme Court order to integrate schools.” And Nir says, “You’ll frequently see the CCC referred to as the “uptown Klan.” Nir provides this excerpt from the council’s expressed views:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races

Apparently, these ideas are not restricted to the fringes of American political thought. Increasingly, they appear to be embedded in the base of today’s Republican Party. According to Nir’s article, this Earl Holt character is a frequent and welcome donor to “48 different Republicans in 34 states. The article includes a list of the candidates who got Nir’s money. Contributions range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars – more than $65,000 in all. Beneficiaries included Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

In the wake of the furor over Roof’s slaughter of black churchgoers, some of the candidates have said they will return Holt’s donations. But there’s more to the story than candidates accepting donations from a shady character.

The true horror is that racist terror groups have found a home in a major American political party.

When Richard Nixon and his crew came up with their Southern Strategy  I suppose they thought they could simply exploit adverse reaction to the passage of civil rights legislation during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. But, intentionally or not,  they opened the door for the “white supremacists.”

Now the swallows have come home to roost. Increasingly, Republican candidates are pandering to the foul notions of these extremists in order to win primaries. Increasingly, the extremists are gaining mainstream political power.

And, in the meantime, their racist doctrine is infecting loonies like Dylann Roof, with tragic consequences.

Click for the Daily Kos article.

Click for more on the Southern Strategy.

Click for more on Earl Holt.


Using “the N Word”

N word


I didn’t grow up in America and I cannot claim to fully appreciate the horror of that N word the President used recently in a TV interview. But in Jamaica, where I grew up, it’s certainly not acceptable. It’s ugly and insulting anywhere.

Still, the President’s critics should take into consideration the context in which he used the word.

He was saying that racism is a lot more than using “n***** in public.” Yes, he said the word right out loud … not just in public but on television.

Media response was immediate – and sometimes critical. CNN called the President’s behavior “shocking.”

Did the President intend to be shocking?  A White House spokesman said he didn’t.

But if he did, maybe that’s what he needs to do – shock his “fellow Americans” into realization that America faces a real and present danger. A cancer is eating at the country’s guts.

That danger is a lot more shocking than the use of a taboo word.  Racism is rampant on the web, in law enforcement, and on the street.

The murder of nine African-American worshippers in Charleston is just one symptom of a dangerous disease.

There is no word, not “the N word,” not “the F word” – not  even Jamaica’s expressive “R word” – that can adequately express the rage decent people should be feeling.

It’s time to get shocking. It’s time to throw discretion and political correctness out the window. It’s time to yell and scream and cry bloody murder.

As they say in Jamaica, “words are wind.”  It’s action that counts.

And, by all that’s sacred, by all that’s holy, even by all that’s unspeakable, it’s time for action.

Human beings are dying for God’s sake! People with hearts and minds and blood flowing in their veins – not black blood, but blood the same color as anyone else’s.

There’s bound to be a backlash. As Shakespeare’s Shylock said:

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?

Racism is not a one-way street. A rank and unashamed assault on one ethnic group by another cannot fail to evoke a response.

America is in peril.

As President of all Americans,  Barack Obama has to take the lead in heading off this imminent conflagration. And if he uses the N word – or any other word – in doing so, we should cut him some slack.

Click for the news story.

Click for CNN’s reaction.

American racism today.


Nightmare in Charleston



No, it was no accident, Rick Perry. And you folks at Fox must know by now that Dylann Roof was not motivated by hatred of religion when he massacred those nine worshippers in Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. There’s no getting around it: This heinous act was driven by racism.

Investigators have discovered a manifesto on the Internet that was authored by the 21-year-old South Carolina resident (photo above).

The 2,444-word manifesto rants against African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics and Asians. And Roof concludes:

I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet.  Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.

And a survivor of the massacre has reported that the shooter said:

You all rape women and you’re taking over our country.

It seems like so much time has passed since America celebrated the election of the country’s first black President. I look back at the starry eyed optimism I felt then and I feel foolish. I had thought that America was emerging from the dark ages, that the time had finally arrived when people in this country would be judged, as Rev. King once said, by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Of course I know that Dylann Roof is one individual, that he does not represent the 300 million-plus people who live in America, and so on. Of course he is crazy. You have to be crazy to do what he did. And of course there has been significant progress in the past half century toward the realization of Martin Luther King’s dream.

But, conceding all that,  racism is a very real, very scary fact of life in this, the world’s leading democracy.

To deny that, as the Supreme Court did when it gutted the Voting Rights Act a couple of years ago, is to hide your head in the sand.

Until the nation’s leaders – and the nation’s media – face up to the ugly truth, American racism will continue to fester. And we shall have horrors like the nightmare in Charleston.

Click for the manifesto.

Click for the Voting Rights Act ruling.


A Zillion Shades of Grey



I suppose the success of books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” reveals that we are all. to some extent, masochists. But, to me,  the most convincing evidence is the popularity of golf.

Millions play the “game” all over the world and many more millions watch it in person or on TV. Yet it can be so bitterly disappointing.

Golfers – and golf fans – are like that Charlie Brown character in “Peanuts.” We keep hoping that the football won’t get pulled away at the last minute this time. Even though we know in our hearts it will.

Personally, I can think of any number of occasions on which golf has utterly humiliated me. Like the time in my callow youth when I was about to shoot under par in a tournament at Constant Spring golf club – for the first and only time in my life – and hooked the ball over the wall into Immaculate Conception High School on my approach to the very last hole. Naturally, there was a cluster of girls sitting on the wall, watching…

Or the time I was invited by a new girlfriend to play with her father and brother at their fancy private golf club in Canada and heeled the ball off the first tee into a startled gallery…

But you might say that’s just me. I have a tendancy to make a fool of myself from time to time.

But what about Tiger (photo above)? What about Rickie?

Both stars were painfully embarrassed in the first round of the US Open yesterday. Tiger, once the world’s greatest golfer – perhaps the greatest ever – shot 80. Rickie shot 81.

The same Rickie who won the Players Championship a few months ago in a magnificent display of skill and guts.

If you watched Tiger, Rickie and Louis Oosthuizen (who won the British Open just five years ago), you had to be devastated. Their combined score was more than two dozen over par!

If you watched them to the end of their round, let’s face it, you enjoy pain. Who but a masochist would sit there and watch while greatness was inevitably reduced to rubble?

And you’ll watch again today, won’t you? I know I will be watching.

We think there’s a chance our beleaguered favorites will somehow make a miraculous turnaround, that Tiger will find his magic again, that Rickie will shoot darts  like he did in the Players, that Louis will recapture the touch he had at St. Andrews.

Yes, in our hearts, we know that’s not likely to happen. But in golf, as in life, anything is possible. There’s always tomorrow.

And that’s what keeps us glued to our TV sets. That’s why we keep heading back to the golf course day after day, year after year, no matter what.

Click for more on Rickie and the first-round disaster.

Click for more on Tiger.


Pope Francis vs. the Republicans



It’s refreshing to have a Pope who actually does God’s work. So many pontiffs in the past have been politicians rather than priests. So many members of the clergy – of all denominations – have supported the Establishment and preservation of the status quo at the expense of God’s word.

In his latest encyclical, Pope Francis unhesitatingly confronts the global powerbrokers – national governments, international institutions and multinational corporations. He reminds them of their duty to preserve the Earth that God gave us and to alleviate the suffering of the downtrodden.

He calls for a global authority that would tackle pollution and economic injustice. He urges development of poor countries combined with conversion to clean energy. He warns of the catastrophic consequences of global warming and urges mankind to change our ways before it’s too late. Here’s how the encyclical puts it:

Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it. Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all by human activity.

As for the climate change deniers, here’s what he has to say about them:

The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem to indifference to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.

To nobody’s surprise, this Pope is being castigated by the Republicans, who – as I’m sure you know – represent the looters and polluters.

Rush Limbaugh, for example, brands him a Marxist. And that mob of GOP presidential hopefuls are in full voice. Jeb Bush is the latest Republican standard bearer to suggest the Pope stick to religion and butt out of global politics.

I can’t wait to see how the man and woman in the street react to this stand-off between the Republicans and the Pope. How, I wonder, will this impact next year’s American elections?

It seems to me that even if you do not belong to the Church of Rome, even if you do not belong to any religion – even if you do not believe in God – you would hesitate to vote for a politician who advocates the destruction of the Earth and the relentless oppression of the powerless.

 Click for more on the encyclical.

Click for the Republican response to the encyclical.


We Know What Jeb Stands for

king jeb

I don’t think Jeb Bush surprised anyone with that speech announcing his presidential candidacy. America should know by now what Jeb Bush represents.

It’s not just that his father and brother occupied the White House. You might think Jeb is his own man and would pursue less disastrous policies than they did. But we in Florida know better. Jeb was our governor, you know. And we witnessed firsthand the consequences of putting a Bush scion in power.

As Debbie Wasserman Schultz points out in her Huffington Post blog:

Jeb Bush supports a return to the same, failed trickle-down economic policies that leave so many Americans behind. As Governor of Florida, Bush’s tax policies favored the rich and wealthy corporations at the expense of the middle class. He stood by his brother’s proposal to privatize Social Security and endorsed the Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, policies that would shred the social safety net on which so many Florida seniors rely.

Like so many born to wealth and privilege, Jeb obviously believes in the role of an elite class, the manifest destiny of those who were born to lead.

He is a rich, white man who married the daughter of a Mexican migrant worker. I’m sure his family thought he married “beneath” him. That’s how his kind of people think.

There’s a story that George H. W. Bush called Jeb’s children “the little brown ones,” and I am inclined to believe it.

These “upper crust” Americans feel entitled to wealth and power. They feel they earn it by accepting responsibility for the “lower classes.”

And they are shocked when we in the “lower classes” grumble. After all, don’t we know we’re getting more than we deserve? Don’t we know we’re lucky to have born leaders like Jeb running things? Think of the mess we would make if we were allowed to take charge.

Clearly Jeb sees it as his duty to step in and straighten his country out. It’s not a pleasant task, you know. He will be sacrificing a lot.

He would personally be much better off running his myriad business interests and enjoying his vast wealth and powerful family connections. But duty calls.

If this were some other country, some Third World country, Jeb would fit right in. Those societies are founded on the acceptance of an elite class. But this is America. And the essence of America is its populism. We the People are the rulers here.

That’s what makes America “exceptional.”

So thank you, Master Jeb for your kind offer, but I think we in the “lower classes” would rather make our own decisions and run our own lives. I’m sure we couldn’t make a worse mess of things than your brother did.

Click for the announcement.

Click for the Huffington Post blog.

Click for more on Jeb.


Why Hillary Gets My Vote


eleanorThe media are all over Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech, as if there’s something there that will tell us what kind of President she would be. But speeches are just speeches. Hillary is Hillary (top photo).

If Americans don’t know what she stands for by now, Americans are dumber than I thought.

Nobody in the history of American politics has been so exposed, so scrutinized. We have seen her in good times and bad. We have seen her stripped of all camouflage, all defense. We have seen her warts and all. And the vast right-wing conspiracy has done its utmost to make her look as ugly as Medusa.

Is she a perfect human being?

Of course not. Are you?

Is she smart? You know she is. Is she compassionate? Loving? A hard worker? All of the above.

Forgiving? Well, maybe not so much. Not if you believe the lurid tales of revenge that have been spread about her.

But you know she was forgiving enough to stand by Bill when he got caught fooling around with that intern.

I trust Hillary. These are perilous times, globally and domestically. One false move could trigger a nightmare. I would be terrified of putting my fate in the hands of someone like Rick Santorum or Scott Walker or Ted Cruz or any of the snorting, strutting, self-adoring popinjays who might be running against her. And I trust Hillary more than Bernie – not to do the right thing (we can count on Bernie for that) but to do the smart thing, which could be the difference between the world’s survival and the Apocalypse.

You know what I like most about Hillary? She is a big fan of Eleanor Roosevelt (bottom photo). And if you don’t know who Eleanor Roosevelt was, shame on you. She probably did more for Americans like you and me than anyone else in history. And she wasn’t even President.

If Eleanor were still around, she would get my vote.

Eleanor isn’t around but Hillary is. I am voting for Hillary.

Click for more on the speech.

Click for more on Hillary and Eleanor.


A Bulla for Fox News



When I was a child in Jamaica, we used to call it a bulla. Not the molasses, ginger-and-nutmeg cake, though. It was a different kind of bulla and it was certainly no treat. It was a verbal slap in the face. I think Americans call it a “put-down.”

Why did we call it a bulla? Beats me. I have no idea.

Anyway, the bulla I’m talking about is the one Fox News just got from a New Hampshire newspaper.

The decision makers at the self-styled “news” channel took it upon themselves to limit the number of Republican presidential candidates in the first primary debate. They would let only the top 10 in national opinion polls participate. That would  “winnow down” the unmanageable number of candiddates, according to the Fox pundits.

Not so fast, said  Joe McQuaid, publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader.

He threatened to stage a competing debate on August 6, the night of the first debate, for the candidates who didn’t make the Fox News top-ten list.

“What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary,” McQuaid said. “Fox boasts that it will ‘winnow’ the field of candidates before New Hampshire gets to do so. That isn’t just bad for New Hampshire, it’s bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls. Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling.”

Baffling indeed. And not just to Joe McQuaid. To a lot of other people, including 56 prominent New Hampshire Republicans who sent  an open protest letter to Fox and the party’s national committee.

Faced with the New Hampshire revolt, Fox News backed down.

Now, candidates who don’t poll among the top ten will be invited to participate in a televised debate earlier on the same day as the main debate.

You might be wondering why Fox News gets to set the rules for the Republican Party’s presidential debates. But nature abhors a vacuum, and the party has an obvious vacuum at the top. So, a TV channel – with a sharp elbow from a newspaper – gets to fill the vacuum.

In Republican politics, it’s no longer the party – or its membership – that calls the shots. Now, it’s billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, talk radio loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News – and a feisty newspaper publisher in New Hampshire.

Illustration above by DonkeyHotey depicts 2016 Republican candidates. Click on it to enlarge it.

Click for more about DonkeyHotey.

Click if you don’t know what a bulla is.


Health Care and Politics



The technician drawing my blood this morning has a simple solution for America’s healthcare problems – a government run, single-payer system. Everyone should have the same health care, she says – even the politicians. The down-and-out panhandler should get the same care as the millionaire cruising by in his Mercedes.

Why, I wonder, would anyone argue with this point of view?

Yet even when Democrats controlled Congress, President Obama could not get the support he needed for such a simple plan. He was obliged to settle for the unwieldy, legally vulnerable Affordable Care Act, derisively christened Obamacare by its critics.

One consequence is a case before the Supreme Court that could disrupt the law’s implementation and leave millions of Americans stripped of their health insurance. 

What do you think America’s leaders should do if the court strikes down the law’s provision subsidizing residents of states that have no health insurance exchanges of their own? I think Congress should replace Obamacare with a straightforward single-payer system. If you get sick or hurt, you get care, and you don’t have to pay a dime. Period. 

But you and I know that’s not going to happen. Not with this Congress. Why?

The cynical explanation is that drug companies and private health insurers have “bought” the politicians. And these interests certainly spend a ton of money lobbying Congress.Yet, surely, politicians must answer to the voters as well as the lobbyists. There must be resistance to health care reform at the grass roots level, or Congress could not get away with its grotesque obstructionism.

Yes, I know, many Americans have a built-in fear and loathing of “socialism” even though I don’t think they know what “socialism” means. Universal health care is not, in my view, socialism. It is simply good government.

Socialism involves government ownership of a country’s resources, especially in such sensitive areas as utilities. There are sensible arguments for and against that economic approach. Health care is a different matter entirely. It’s a matter of life and death, not economics.

Who in their right mind would prefer an unhealthy society to a healthy one?

It’s a question that might face voters next November.

If the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act succeeds, the Demnocrats shouldn’t just try to resuscitate the Affordable Care Act. They should offer a single-payer plan like the one in Canada and several other countries.

Are Americans ready for such a bold decision? My blood testing technician sure is.

Click for more on the Supreme Court case.


Is Serena “Beautiful”?


suzanneI know, you will tell me that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. So let’s stipulate up front to that tired old cliche. What I want to know is whether you think the world’s greatest-ever female tennis player (top photo) is eye candy.

I know you’re not one of those anonymous trolls who infested social media while Serena was winning the French Open, the racist, sexist creeps who sneered that Serena Williams looks like a man – or even “a gorilla.”

But, tell the truth, is she too powerful looking to meet your standards of beauty?

I think Serena is a work of art.  I think the lines of her face are classical, her cheekbones exquisite. I think her movement is as graceful as a panther’s.

As for her broad shoulders and rippling thighs, I think they  would be a sculptor’s dream.

But that’s just me.

Obviously, there are others who don’t share my perspective.

The question is whether in the year 2015, in Western civilization, female beauty can include power and athleticism.

Obviously, Serena is no delicate geisha.

But is the geisha your idea of feminine charm?

A half century ago, when I worked for the Toronto Telegram,  I interviewed the great  George Balanchine, who was visiting Canada with his ballet company. And he lectured me about prevailing concepts of female beauty.

He had no use for dancers with “tiny hands and tiny feet,” he said. He preferred his ballerinas to have hands and feet large enough to make a dramatic statement on stage. Dancers like the immortal Suzanne Farrell (bottom photo).

That was half a century ago. Have our tastes evolved in all that time?

What does this generation think, I wonder.

Do women still have to be “delicate” in order to be considered “beautiful”?

Click for more on the social media trolls.

Click for more on George Balanchine.

Click for more on Suzanne Farrell.